Better use of school buses. Do you need a seat for every student?
Education Law section 3635-c prohibits standing passengers except during the first ten days of school and in an emergency. This should not be interpreted as having a seat for every student regardless of actual ridership. In fact, numerous Commissioner's decisions have emphasized the responsibility and authority of boards of education to provide not only a safe, but an efficient transportation system. School officials should design routes and assign buses so that buses are used safely and efficiently. Whenever possible, buses should be filled to capacity. We encourage school districts to gather information on the capacity use of their transportation fleets. School districts should instruct drivers to take an actual count of pupils riding the bus periodically on each route and should maintain records in case of an appeal.
Some districts have a policy of holding an available seat for every potential rider. This policy goes against cost-effectiveness and gives the appearance of the under use of school buses. The Department encourages school districts to have an available seat only for those students who are expected to ride the bus. They may wish to survey parents on their intentions but in no case can a parent's response be seen as waiving their right to transportation for their child. It is advisable to have an additional 10 percent of the seats available in case of unanticipated riders, in relation to the district’s own routing calculations based on the students transported (not the posted capacity). It is not prudent to have buses with 50 percent of the seats empty in order to accommodate every possible student. We encourage school districts to have a back up plan as part of their emergency management practices for pupil transportation in the event that a bus is filled beyond capacity.